When it comes to maternity leave, the US isn’t exactly at the top of the heap. Only 16 percent of civilian workers (meaning private industry and state and local government workers) are getting paid time off for family leave as of December 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employee Benefits Survey. And that leaves a lot of new mothers stuck without an income during the postpartum period. So what are women doing to keep a paycheck coming in while they recuperate from childbirth and bond with their baby? In some cases, people are finding an innovative solution: Coworkers are donating their paid leave to new mommies.

Pregnant woman at work

Not Enough Paid Leave

What are you giving your expecting colleague for her baby shower gift — a cute stuffed animal, the trendiest new baby wrap, or yet another onesie? Chances are it’s probably something off her registry and not a few weeks (or longer) time off from work with pay.

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that 75 percent of civilian workers receive paid vacation time, paid family leave is still shockingly hard to come by. It’s this distressing fact that’s driving some women to gift coworkers who are new moms with something they actually need: their paid leave. Good Morning America recently reported on new mom Angela Hughes and her maternity leave struggle. New to her job, the Kansas City, MO mommy didn’t yet qualify for paid maternity leave, so she saved up her vacation days in order to have time with her baby after giving birth. But of course, that didn’t come close to covering the full amount of time that she needed.

A Gift New Moms Really Need

That’s where Hughes’s boss stepped in, donating 80 hours of her paid time off to the new mom. Several of Hughes’s coworkers also donated their PTO too, giving her a total of eight weeks to recover from a C-section and spend time with her new daughter.

Hughes isn’t the only new mom who has received this extraordinary gift. The GMA article points out that while it’s up to individual employers to determine if employees are permitted to donate their paid time off to others, some companies do allow it. (If you’re curious about maternity leave policies in general, the website Fairygodboss has compiled a crowdsourced list of maternity leave policies at various companies.) Not only do private employers offer this perk in certain instances, but Nebraska also enacted a new policy enabling state workers to donate their vacation days to a colleague’s maternity leave.

Crowdsourcing Maternity Funds

When donating benefits isn’t an option at your company, there’s still hope for getting help if you don’t receive the maternity leave you need. Families are turning to crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe to create campaigns to fund their unpaid time off. And they’re also adding this practical gift to their registries: The website BabyList allows expectant parents to register for cash funds to go toward a major expense (e.g., maternity leave or college savings) along with gifts, and Take12 is a site dedicated solely to registering for your maternity leave and even includes resources like a planning guide and checklist to help you figure out exactly how much money you’ll need, among other logistics.

While using crowdfunding sites to solicit maternity leave money may seem different from what we’re typically used to as far as registries, it’s a lifesaver for some parents. Think about it: Do you really need one more teeny-tiny washcloth or hooded towel for your baby? Probably not. Do you need time off from work to bond with your little one and let your body heal from the marathon of labor and delivery? Definitely yes!

What do you think about donating maternity leave? Share your thoughts and tweet us @BritandCo.

(Photo via Getty)